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Anchor Bay presents
FM (1978)

"What it is!"
- The Prince (Cleavon Little)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: July 16, 2000

Stars: Michael Brandon. Eileen Brennan
Other Stars: Martin Mull, Cleavon Little, Alex Karras, Cassie Yates
Director: John A. Alonzo

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 01h:44m:00s
Release Date: January 11, 2000
UPC: 013131094497
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C C-AA- C

DVD Review

I'm not a child of the 70's. Though I spent some formative years in that decade, the 80's was more my forte'. So, as a result, maybe I grew up in a more jaded environment where corporate radio stations endlessly beamed into my ears and I didn't care. Maybe there was a dreamy day when radio listeners actually cared about quality programming on the airwaves and "fought the power." Whether or not those days existed, FM takes us back to them.

In FM, we're introduced to a rock 'n' roll, L.A. radio station called "QSKY." Head deejay Jeff Dugan (Michael Brandon) and his crew broadcast the latest and greatest hits of the day, with as few commercials as possible. Amongst the gang of vinyl spinners are Swann (Martin Mull), Mother (Eileen Brennan), and Prince (Cleavon Little), all of whom have their own unusual persona. Unfortunately, once QSKY starts heading up the ratings charts the head office wants to push more commercial sales. Dugan finds himself trying to fend off a greedy advertising agent (Tom Tarpey) who even wants to put military ads onto the station's top slots. The station soon begins to enter a grim stage where their success brings little comfort and every day is an uphill battle.

One of the first things that struck me about this comedy was the portrayal of QSKY as something truly subversive, as if this mass of unknown oppressors wouldn't understand it. Maybe I'm wrong, but to me, a radio station that blasted out hits by the Eagles and Steely Dan in the late 70's wouldn't exactly be riding a trailblazing path. The film definitely tries to set up a glimpse of a certain lifestyle, as if listening to these groups automatically puts you on the right side of things. To a certain extent, it is a bit laughable considering many of the people in this generation have evolved into the same kinds or corporate bad guys we see in the film itself.

FM also squanders a wonderful cast. Comedic greats like Martin Mull and Eileen Brennan seem to have subdued roles where their humor is awkward. Cleavon Little is completely underused, despite having just been in hits like Greased Lightning and Blazing Saddles. Even though the central actors are likable and funny in their own way, the comedy potential for this chaotic station seems untapped.

All of this is not to say FM isn't funny, it's just very by-the-numbers. While watching the film I noticed that the similarities between it and the TV series WKRP In Cincinnati were hard to avoid. Perhaps here is where the beginning of WKRP was formed, which premiered the same year as this film. Should you like a lot of 70's rock, FM also features concert material from both Jimmy Buffet and Linda Rondstadt. There's a variety of other tunes as well, including lots of Steely Dan.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: FM is presented in widescreen and full-frame formats. Considering the fact that the film was original 2:35:1, the full-frame version loses a great deal of picture composition. Both versions have outstanding transfers, with no compression artifacts or color bleeding. There's no pixel shimmer or anything of that nature. Even at full-zoom, the 2:35:1 version showed no signs of digital flaws. Unfortunately, the movie was filmed with some kind of diffusion filter, so the whole thing looks a little blurry, especially in scenes with high light. This is a filmmaking decision, though, not a mastering flaw. While there is some aliasing from the 16:9 enhancement, it's very minor and not distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: A major change to this new DVD cut of FM is the excellent Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. It mostly effects the musical score, which is a good thing. The concert performances within the film have also been beefed up and sound extremely good. The track uses the surrounds to provide a lot of subtle imaging. At several points during the film I actually mistook in-film audio from a background radio as someone playing really loud music in my neighborhood. If there's anything bad about the 5.1 enhancement, it's the fact that most of the dialog and action doesn't benefit from it. For example, in one scene Dugan speaks to a crowd with a megaphone, but it comes across rather weak due to it being a strictly mono scene. The 5.1 track also adds a little bit of imaging, usually depending on where characters are located in the scene.The 2.0 Surround audio is pretty much the same as the 5.1, but the lack of dual rear signals takes a lot out of the crisp live performances.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: FM's sole extra is the original theatrical trailer. The presentation is done nicely with a keepcase insert that's a reproduction of the original poster, and a disc made to look like an LP. The menuing system is also themed to look like an old stereo.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

FM is an enjoyable comedy, but it's also a little slow moving. Too much of the meager plot is put into the background to give excuses to show concert performances or cameos by bands. At nearly 2 hours, the film is about 30 minutes too long, and by the time the end is reached it's doubtful few people will care about QSKY's outcome. We all know that the "rock 'n' roll rules" attitude will prevail and that evil corporations will be defeated. Better to get to that point quickly with a lot of humor rather than stretching it out too far. A decent rental for a few good chuckles.

 


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